Photo by Cacie Rosario // Girasol Studio
Much of my life in this season has revolved around the importance of trusting myself. This season is cyclical and the process of learning, alongside the practice of applying the lessons, have basically dragged me.
When I say this season is cyclical, I mean that it doesn't just happen one time. It happens repeatedly and almost follows the four seasons we know. There is a time for things to fall apart, followed by a colder, darker, and harsher time of mourning past selves, past patterns, past lives, past habits and thoughts. There is a time of making room and clearing out things, people, ideas that no longer fit, that are not safe, and that do not align. And there is a time to dance in the sun, to complain about the heat of it all but still be happy about the warmth of longer days and the adventure in them. Then, the process repeats. All the while, a lesson is being learned.
At times, I've felt dragged through these cycles because I was reluctant to see myself reflected in something that didn't feel absolute. In my early 20s, I was rigid and stuck, seeing life as black and white, good or bad, yes or no, success or failure. This kept me in the perpetual space of Imposter Syndrome. I didn't understand that there was no final point at which I would be able to fully check off the box of feeling "done" with my self-love/self-care/self-trust journey. Instead of enjoying the actual journey, I was waiting for the end of it and wincing at anything that came.
2018, post-undergrad, and living in a new city at the age of 22, I thought I had no idea how to make sense of myself in the new world in front of me. Yet, I found myself presented with new opportunities, and reminded of past experiences.
Some of the things that came to me were opportunities for me to experience being undervalued at work, navigating various micro-aggressions and unhealthy work environments, learning to understand the complexity of relationships, and ending many that did not align or show that they were safe. My reflection became unrecognizable to me. And I mean this literally. Physically, I had stopped caring for my health so much that I could not even stand to look at myself in the mirror. I was turning to food for comfort and not putting effort or energy into my appearance. I gained over 30 pounds, woke up most mornings with little-to-no energy, struggled to show up as my fullest self at times, befriended anxiety like I grew up with her around the corner, and my memory was basically trash from bouts of depression. I would go to my apartment and cry, vomit from the anxiety-induced stomach pain of working in a place dominated by white supremacist ideology, and oversleep to make my reality go away. I wondered the entire time where I messed up when I tried to do everything so perfectly. There I was, a first-generation college graduate, feeling like I had nothing to show for it. The problem was, I was listening to someone else’s story of who and what I was.
But remember, I said that things were not black and white. And what I didn't realize was this process of learning to trust and honor my voice and my story was breaking me down entirely so I could rebuild something better. It mimicked the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, having to completely turn itself to mush in the cocoon in order to rebuild and be reborn.
I’d like to say there was pressure for me to be a first-generation college graduate, but it’d be more accurate to say that it just felt like an opportunity. My mother worked diligently to ensure that I was not a teen mother like she was, bringing me into the world at 17. She instilled values, goals, and independence in me that has helped me be the woman I am today. However, along with this did inevitably come some pressure to be the first, to be representative, and to do everything perfectly. How could I not, when I had the mistakes and regrets of those before me to guide me closer to success? This came with its own struggles.
As I learned what anxiety and depression was while being a Black woman, I found that I wasn't doing myself a justice by thinking of everything in such binary ways. I had to accept that I would never be done with the cycles as long as I was alive. Anything else was literally killing me. While everything felt disjointed, I continued to lean on the thing I know through and through: writing. I have been writing stories and creating characters since I was 5 years old, and I majored in English and Creative Writing in college. Writing equally fueled my imagination and my hope, giving me the room to not give up on myself in darker moments. It showed me that even though I had not seen many stories of Black women like me, that did not mean my story was not of value or worthwhile. Storytelling is the way we connect ourselves with ancestry, culture, goals, language, and more. What I was doing was learning to write my life's story and trust myself to do the work throughout the process.
I journaled what my life looks like now, almost down to a T, in the winter of 2019. I said I would work remotely, have my own home, healthy food in my fridge, and a space to walk my dog peacefully. I would no longer be a smaller version of myself, instead walking hand-in-hand with the self that honored me most.
In my coaching sessions with clients, my primary coaching technique is the use of Narrative Coaching alongside Positive Psychology. A part of Narrative Coaching asks the client to look at the stories and narratives before them in their lives, to examine what purpose those stories serve, and to empower them to see the value in rewriting any narratives that do not aid their overall betterment. What's beautiful about exploring this as a Black woman is that Black people have been rewriting narratives since the beginning of time. We celebrate this re-narration like reparations every February with Black History Month, and the new room made with the rewriting. Stories written for us have not done us justice, have not freed us or uplifted us. So, we take our power back by writing them ourselves.
I have accomplished many things while authoring my life and they have helped me create a life that feels full. During my seasons, I published my first book, Origins: Lamentations of the Blackbird, at age 21. This book is the first in a trilogy and focused on self-love, micro and macro aggressions, and African American ancestry. I published my second book, Origins: The Hummingbird's Heart, at 25, focused on healing, love of others and self, self-trust, self-authorship, and manifestation. I published a prompted journal with a cover that reads "Be The Author of Your Life," using the coaching tools I garnered from attending graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania to design the prompts. I fell back in love with the gym, learned healthier eating habits, and put them into practice. I began to take care of myself consistently again. I found that I was building a foundation of self-trust for the future that would help me navigate anything that life threw at me.
I also found that the growth, the relief I sought from the stress of life, and the learning was all in the work and in the chaos. Only after I had the experiences I did, was I able to pull back from them and turn them into poetry. If you're going through something right now, keep going, you will find the value in time, so long as you are willing to do the work.
Lean on your strengths. My ability to write and create had me turning 26 in Hawaii, fulfilling a story that I had once only imagined. Now, at 26, I look at myself now with more reverence. I don't see life or its lessons as black and white. I know that this is a journey that will continue forever and I am excited for it instead of hating it. Whatever comes will come with its own agonies but it will also have its abundance. I will create and destroy things at the same time. I will create and destroy selves at the same time. I will meet new people along the way and let go of ones who have been with me for a while; some will stay forever. The writing never stops. The journey does not end, and I have made my peace with that. I have found peace in the process itself and that feels healing. That feels like Black love and Black excellence in my own right. I could only be here to tell this story now after having lived it, and trusting myself in the process to sit down, face the seasons, and write.